A taxing situation

Published 5:30 pm Thursday, March 8, 2012

There’s another good reason for Beaufort County voters to mark their ballots in the May 8 primary.

That reason: to have their say on whether the county should increase its sales-tax rate by one-quarter of 1 percent.

The proposed increase would come in exchange for a future decrease in the county’s property-tax rate. If voters approve the increase in the county’s sales tax, that could lead to a 1.5-cent reduction in the property-tax rate.

In January, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to allow the county’s voters to determine the fate of the proposal. Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson, both Republicans, voted against conducting a public referendum on the issue. Deatherage preferred the matter be placed on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election, saying more people would vote then instead of in the May 8 primary.

He may have a point. History shows that more people vote in general elections than in primaries.

Because the issue will be on the ballot for the May 8 primary, the main concern should be informing voters the issue will be on the ballot for that primary so they can educate themselves about the proposal.

Some commissioners believe an increase in the sales tax is the way to go because a sales tax is a fairer tax because it is paid by everyone. Richardson opposes the proposal, saying it is “a useless, worthless proposal that is going to raise your taxes” because the county likely will raise property taxes in the future even if a sales-tax increase is approved.

Currently, the sales-tax rate in the county is 6.75 percent, with 4.75 percent of that designated for the state and the remaining 2 percent earmarked for the county.

Voters should educate themselves about the issue and vote on it in the May 8 primary.

As many county residents as possible should have a say in how they will be taxed. They’re the ones paying taxes.